Equifax breach exposed more than previously thought. The Equifax breach may have exposed more personal information of customers than previously thought.

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The Equifax hack could be worse than we thought. By Donna Borak and Kathryn Vasel

WASHINGTON (CNNMoney) — The Equifax breach may have exposed more personal information of customers than previously thought.

Additional information, including tax IDs and driver’s license details, may have been accessed in a hack that affected 145.5 million customers, according to confidential documents Equifax provided to the Senate Banking Committee seen by CNN.

The disclosure follows Equifax’s original announcement of the breach in September, which compromised sensitive data like names, date of birth, Social Security numbers and home addresses.

In its original announcement of the hack, the company had revealed that some driver’s license numbers were exposed. The new documents show that the license state and issue date might have also been compromised.

Equifax spokesperson Meredith Griffanti told CNNMoney Friday that the original list of vulnerable personal information was never intended to represent the full list of potentiality exposed information.

The new documents now raise questions of how much information hackers may have accessed in Equifax’s cyber attack.

In its response to lawmakers, Equifax said the pieces of information compiled is “not exhaustive,” but represents common personal information that hackers usually search for.

Criminals can use personal information like this to open bank accounts and lines of credit, like a credit card or mortgage, without the victim’s knowledge.

“The more information scammers have about you, the easier it is for them to impersonate you,” said Lauren Saunders, associate director at the National Consumer Law Center. “And the easier it is for them to get by the protocols that banks and others use to make sure they are dealing with the right individual.”

The unauthorized access occurred from May through July 2017. The hackers exploited a website application vulnerability to gain access to the files, according to the company.

Apple #AirPod smokes, then blows up, report says. A Florida man says one of his Apple AirPods started smoking as he was working out at a St. Petersburg gym.

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Apple AirPod smokes, then blows up by By Caitlin McGarry  | Tom’s Guide

Jason Colon didn’t actually see his AirPod burst into flame, because he took the device out of his ear and left it on a piece of gym equipment to seek help. But when Colon returned, the AirPod had popped open, and char marks turned parts of the white plastic grey.
“I didn’t see it happen, but, I mean, it was already fried,” Colon told local television station WFLA TV.

WFLA reached out to Apple after Colon told his story. An Apple spokesperson told the station that the company is investigating the situation.

This is the first time AirPods have made headlines for exploding, so it doesn’t appear to be a widespread issue. A search of Apple’s support forums turned up two reports of AirPods growing warm or hot after 30 minutes of use.

Personally, I have owned a pair of AirPods for more than a year and have worn them daily without any sign of battery issues. But devices with lithium-ion batteries have been known to explode in the past.

Samsung’s Galaxy Note 7 is a prime example — the company had to recall its flagship smartphone altogether after multiple devices blew up. Apple’s AirPods have three lithium-ion batteries: one in each earbud, and another in the charging case.

FY2019 Budget Sees Cyber Funding Boost, Research Cuts. President Trump’s recently revealed budget for fiscal year 2019 increases #cybersecurity funding across the government, but also includes significant cuts in funding for #cyber #research.

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Trump’s 2019 Budget Boosts Cyber Spending but Cuts Research

Nextgov | By Joseph Marks

President Donald Trump’s 2019 fiscal year budget request boosts cybersecurity funding by about 4 percent across the government, including significant hikes at the Homeland Security Department and Pentagon.

The overall increase includes even larger cyber funding spikes at key agencies, including a 23 percent jump at the Energy Department, a 33 percent jump at the Nuclear Regulatory Commission and a 16 percent hike at the Veterans Affairs Department. The budget, however, includes a massive cut of 18 percent to the government’s main cyber standards organization, the National Institute of Standards and Technology. That cut comes as NIST is working on an update to its cybersecurity framework, which is now mandatory for all federal agencies.

The budget also marks a major shift for cyber research and development funding inside the Homeland Security Department. Cyber research was formerly housed primarily in the department’s Science and Technology Directorate. Going forward, that funding, which totals $41 million in the president’s budget request, will be inside the cyber and infrastructure protection division—called the National Protection and Programs Directorate, or NPPD. The move is another blow for the Science and Technology Directorate, which has faced significant budget cuts since the start of the Trump administration.

The shift was made so “operators on the ground have influence over research and development,” a senior administration official said during a press call. The cyber and infrastructure protection division will work closely with the science and technology division on research priorities, the official said.The budget also calls for a small spike in government-wide information technology spending.

The president’s budget request is as much an ideological document as a budgeting one. The request lays out the executive branches’ funding priorities, but those numbers are only a rough starting point when Congress begins its own budgeting process and they’re often ignored entirely. Funding Hikes at Homeland Security and Defense, Homeland Security cyber spending overall will stay roughly flat at about $1.72 billion.

The cyber division of the department’s cyber and infrastructure protection wing, however, will get a 7 percent spike from $665 million in the 2018 fiscal year to $712 million this year.

In addition to protecting federal civilian government computer networks, that division is also helping states secure their election systems against cyberattacks.

The budget includes $238 million for Homeland Security’s continuous diagnostics and mitigation program, which delivers a suite of cybersecurity tools to federal agencies and will eventually track federal computer systems on a government-wide dashboard. That’s down from $279 million in last year’s request.

The budget commits $407 million for a government-wide intrusion detection program called Einstein. That’s up from $397 million in last year’s request.

At the Pentagon, total cyber funding jumps to $8.5 billion in this year’s request, a 4.2 percent hike over the prior year.

That jump comes as U.S. Cyber Command, which was elevated last year to a unified combatant command, is in the process of reaching full operational capability.

The budget released Monday also:

  • Includes $8 million for the White House Office of Management and Budget’s cybersecurity oversight responsibilities, down from $19 million last year.
  • Includes $25 million for a cybersecurity enhancements account at the Treasury Department, which will help upgrade high-value Treasury computer systems that rely on outdated technology. The fund will also help the department respond more nimbly to cyber incidents. Overall cyber funding at Treasury will drop from about $529 million last year to $500 this year.
  • Raises funding for the Justice Department’s national security division, which prosecutes cyber crimes, from $95 million to $101 million. Overall Justice Department cyber funding is at $721 million, up from $704 million last year but down from $735 during the final year of the Obama administration.
  • Includes $10 million for cyber upgrades at the Transportation Department.
  • Hikes Veterans Affairs Department cyber funding 16 percent from $360 million last year to $418 million this year.
  • Raises cyber funding at the Office of Personnel Management 18 percent, from about $39 million to about $46 million.
  • Hikes Nuclear Regulatory Commission cyber funding 33 percent, from about $24 million to about $32 million.

Hikes Energy Department cyber funding 23 percent, from about $379 million to about $465 million.

Cryptocurrency Malware Hits #UK, #US, Australian #Government Websites. A security researcher uncovered over 4,000 websites compromised by malware that mines for crypto currency. Websites affected include several government websites in the UK, US, and Australia.

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UK Government Websites, ICO Hijacked by Cryptocurrency Mining Malware

ZDNet | By Charlie Osborne

A number of government websites in the UK, US, and Australia, including the UK Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO), have been compromised by cryptojacking malware. According to security researcher Scott Helme, over 4,000 websites have been affected. The security consultant was made aware of the scheme after another security expert, Ian Thornton-Trump, pointed out that the ICO’s website had a cryptominer installed within the domain’s coding.

Helme confirmed the findings on Twitter, and upon further exploration, discovered that the mining code was present on all of the ICO’s web pages. It was not long before the researcher realized far more than the ICO had been compromised. Websites including the UK’s Student Loans Company (SLC), the UK National Health Service (NHS) Scotland, the Australian Queensland government portal, and US websites were also affected, such as uscourts.gov.

Cryptocurrency mining software is not illegal and some websites have begun tinkering with plugins that borrow visitor CPU power to mine virtual currency, potentially as an alternative for advertising. However, malware which installs such mining software without consent is fraudulent and can slow down visitor systems when legitimate websites are serving up mining scripts. The researcher traced the code found in the ICO website to a third-party plugin, Browsealoud, which is intended to assist visually impaired visitors to website domains. The plugin’s developers, Texthelp, confirmed that the plugin had been compromised to mine cryptocurrency.

In a blog post, the researcher said that the script for the Browsealoud plugin, ba.js, was altered to include the Coinhive cryptocurrency miner, which specializes in Monero.Any website using the plugin and loading the file would then unwittingly load the cryptocurrency miner with it. As a result, it is not the websites themselves that have been internally compromised, but rather a third-party service that was tampered with for the purpose of cryptojacking.

“If you want to load a crypto miner on 1,000+ websites you don’t attack 1,000+ websites, you attack the one website that they all load content from,” Helme noted. “In this case, it turned out that Texthelp, an assistive technology provider, had been compromised and one of their hosted script files changed.”

A public search on PublicWWW revealed that up to 4,275 websites may have loaded the infected script and mined cryptocurrency by borrowing visitor processing power as a result.

At the time of writing, the Browsealoud website is not accessible.

Texthelp said no customer information has been exposed due to the security lapse, and “Browsealoud [was removed] from all our customer sites immediately, addressing the security risk without our customers having to take any action.”

The exploit was active for roughly four hours on Sunday.

Texthelp intends to keep the plugin offline until 12.00pm GMT on Tuesday to “allow time for Texthelp customers to learn about the issue and the company’s response plan.”

Helme says that this attack vector is nothing new, but it would have taken a simple tweak to the loading script to prevent it happening in the first place. By altering the standard coding to load a .js file to include the SRI Integrity Attribute, which allows a browser to determine whether or not a file had been modified, the entire campaign could have been “completely neutralized.”

“In short, this could have been totally avoided by all of those involved even though the file was modified by hackers,” the researcher says. “I guess, all in all, we really shouldn’t be seeing events like this happen on this scale to such prominent sites.”

At the time of writing, the ICO website is not available.

On Sunday, the UK National Cyber Security Center (NCSC), part of the GCHQ intelligence agency, said that there is “nothing to suggest that members of the public are at risk.”

“NCSC technical experts are examining data involving incidents of malware being used to illegally mine cryptocurrency,” an NCSC spokesperson said. “The affected service has been taken offline, largely mitigating the issue. Government websites continue to operate securely.”

Microsoft is trying to kill passwords. It can’t happen soon enough. Microsoft called passwords a “relic from the early days of computing” that “has long outlived its usefulness.”

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Microsoft Corp. is trying to kill the password, and it’s about time. This month, the company said the next test version of its stripped-down Windows 10 S operating system will strip out passwords too, by default. If you go through setup as recommended, you’ll never get a password option.
Los Angeles Times

But killing the password altogether will take more work and time — and the problem may get worse before it gets better.

That’s a shame. Passwords are the bane of modern digital existence. On a big-picture level, insecure passwords cause an estimated 80% of breaches, according to a 2017 report from Verizon. On a human level, they’re paralyzing; right when you need to access your utility bill, you can’t remember if you replaced the “a” with a 4 or an @ symbol. Or when, say, a missile alert has gone out to your entire state and you can’t find your password to give an all-clear.

Passwords have amassed their share of enemies. Microsoft’s latest move follows pushes from Apple, Google and others to shake up the old passcode and password system with fingerprint scans, face scans or temporary codes. There’s no question passwords aren’t adapting to a modern age. “It’s quite clear to us, that the era of the password is passing. Based on the significant amount of accounts that now exist, it doesn’t scale as a system,” said William Beer, a principal at business management consultancy EY.

Microsoft has been waging a war on passwords for a while. Like others, it has poured effort into other types of authentication, namely biometric scans of your face or fingerprints — it introduced facial recognition unlocking for Windows PCs in 2015. It also has built a smartphone app to provide an ever-changing code to act as your password.

“This relic from the early days of computing has long outlived its usefulness, and certainly, its ability to keep criminals at bay,” an official blog post from Microsoft said in December.

Now Microsoft is edging even closer to pushing passwords off a cliff, at least in its lighter version of Windows — though not every feature that gets tested in early versions of operating systems makes it to consumers.

But we don’t have a lot of time to work on a slow revolution. The way we handle security is about to hit an even bigger test.

One reason passwords are awful is that there are so many of them. Dashlane, a password manager company, found in a survey of its own customers that they have an average of 130 accounts with passwords.

And password overload is poised to get worse before it gets better. Tech companies are pushing into more areas of our lives by giving “smarts” to any item that can accommodate a chip — toilets, car, beds. Securing all of those gets messy, and it’s not remotely feasible to create a secure, unique password for every home appliance, even though those appliances collect very personal data.

Another big issue: Finding the perfect password is difficult, as it requires a unique balance of “easy to remember” and “hard to hack.” And since you need more than one password, you have to find that sweet spot over and over again. In the pursuit of safety, companies often require passwords to have a complex combination of capital letters, symbols and other requirements. But those requirements can actually cause people to reuse their complex passwords or refuse to change them once they’ve committed them to memory. In 2016, Britain’s National Cyber Security Centre recommended simplifying password requirements to encourage people to change them.

All of these issues point to a system that doesn’t work, and it makes sense for companies and people to get on the bandwagon to replace it.

Yet passwords they linger like roaches in the corners of our digital lives. Alternatives such as fingerprint scans, retinal scans, voice recognition and other technologies can be hard for companies — particularly non-tech companies — to implement well. Those solutions are also imperfect, as some pairs of twins can tell you. If something requires new costs to implement and is still flawed, many companies may stick with the devil they know. (Even Microsoft is simply proposing getting rid of passwords, and only on a light version of Windows, instead of replacing it with another security alternative.)

Plus, even when companies offer something more, it’s often difficult for people to get used to a new routine, Beer said.

Changing habits will require more effort such as those from Microsoft, and a slow introduction to different methods to change people’s habits. Beer said that many of the businesses he looks at are now at least combining the old username and password combination with something else — a fingerprint scan, voice print or temporary code for those cagey about sharing biometric info (or for companies unwilling or unable to secure them).

Ultimately, Beer said, the real path to killing the password is not technology, but education.

“We’re putting all the focus on technology and not thinking about explaining to people,” he said. “I would suggest that while technology is great, it needs to be accompanied by a significant awareness campaign to explain and support users as they go through these changes.”

Tsukayama writes for the Washington Post.

157 new emoji coming to #iOS, #Android . Are you ready for a ton of new emoji? If not, you better hurry to prepare yourself and your phone.

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New year, new emoji.
Kaya Yurieff | CNN

The Unicode Consortium — a nonprofit that sets the global standard for emoji — announced on Wednesday 157 new emoji options would be coming later this year. The latest collection includes a cupcake, lobster, pirate flag and more expressive smiley faces.

Emoji will soon have a variety of new hairstyles, such as curly or bald, and more hair color options such as red and white.

There will also be more animals, such as a kangaroo, llama, swan and mosquito. More fun smiley faces include a “cold face” with dangling icicles, a partying face and a “woozy” emoji.

New superheros and villains join the lineup, and popular activities like lacrosse, knitting, sewing and skateboarding are also represented.

After Unicode releases its guidelines, software makers such as Apple and Google design versions for their respective platforms. That’s why emoji on iPhones look different than those on Android phones.

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The new emoji usually begin appearing on mobile phones later this year. Apple typically previews its versions in June and releases them in the fall with the next iOS update. Android will release its emoji later this year.With the latest additions, the total number of approved emojis will total 2,823. In recent years, Unicode has made a bigger effort to include more diverse skin tones, occupations and flags.

 

Dark Caracal Targets Thousands in Over 21 Countries. The Electronic Frontier Foundation and Lookout Security released a report detailing several active Dark Caracal #hacking campaigns that successfully targeted mobile devices of #military personnel, medical #professionals, #journalists, #activists, and others in over 21 countries.

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Dark Caracal: Hackers Spied on Targets in Over 21 Countries and Stole Hundreds of Gigabytes of Data

International Business Times UK | By India Ashok

A new and massive cyberespionage campaign, believed to be the work of Lebanese hackers linked to Lebanese General Security Directorate (GDGS) in Beirut, has been uncovered.

A new report by the Electronic Frontier Foundation and Lookout Security revealed that the cyberespionage group, dubbed Dark Caracal, has conducted numerous attacks against thousands of targets in over 21 countries in North America, Europe, the Middle East, and Asia.

The hacker group successfully targeted mobile devices of military personnel, medical professionals, journalists, lawyers, activists and more. It has stolen hundreds of gigabytes of data, including photos, text messages, call records, audio recordings, contact information and more.

The cyberespionage group stole this massive trove of information using its custom-developed mobile spyware called Pallas. The spyware, which Lookout discovered in 2017, is found in malware-laced Android apps — knock-offs of popular apps like WhatsApp, Telegram and others that users downloaded from third-party online stores.

“People in the US, Canada, Germany, Lebanon, and France have been hit by Dark Caracal,” EFF director of Cybersecurity Eva Galperin said in a statement. “This is a very large, global campaign, focused on mobile devices. Mobile is the future of spying, because phones are full of so much data about a person’s day-to-day life.”

According to the report, Dark Caracal has been active in several different campaigns, running parallel, with its backend infrastructure also having been used by other threat actors. For instance, Operation Manul, which according to the EFF targeted journalists, lawyers and dissidents of the Kazakhistan government, was launched using Dark Caracal’s infrastructure.

According to Galperin, the Dark Caracal group may be offering its spyware services to various clients, including governments, The Register reported.

Dark Caracal hackers also make use of other malware variants such as the Windows malware called Bandook RAT. The group also uses a previously unknown multi-platform malware dubbed CrossRAT by Lookout and EFF, which is capable of targeting Windows, Linux and OSX systems. The report states that the APT group also borrows or purchases hacking tools from other hackers on the dark web.

“Dark Caracal is part of a trend we’ve seen mounting over the past year whereby traditional APT actors are moving toward using mobile as a primary target platform,” said Mike Murray, VP of security intelligence at Lookout. “The Android threat we identified, as used by Dark Caracal, is one of the first globally active mobile APTs we have spoken publicly about.”

“One of the interesting things about this ongoing attack is that it doesn’t require a sophisticated or expensive exploit. Instead, all Dark Caracal needed was application permissions that users themselves granted when they downloaded the apps, not realizing that they contained malware,” said EFF staff technologist Cooper Quintin. “This research shows it’s not difficult to create a strategy allowing people and governments to spy on targets around the world.”

Ransomware Posing as Flash Player Download A new strain of ransomware hit organizations throughout Eastern Europe earlier this week. Spread through compromised websites, the Bad Rabbit ransomware poses as an Adobe Flash Player download, and after infecting one machine, can quickly spread through an organization’s network without being detected.

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The Latest Ransomware Presents Itself as an Adobe Flash Player Download

Nextgov | By Keith Collins |

A new strain of ransom ware, called Bad Rabbit, began hitting organizations throughout Russia and Eastern Europe on Wednesday (Oct. 25). The malware is being spread through compromised websites, presenting itself as an Adobe Flash Player download.

“When users visited one of the compromised websites, they were redirected to 1dnscontrol[.]com, the site which was hosting the malicious file,” according to a blog post by Talos, Cisco’s threat intelligence team.

Once infected with the ransom ware, victims are directed to a web page on the dark web, which demands they pay 0.05 bit coin (roughly $285 USD) to get their files back.

After one computer on a network is infected, Bad Rabbit can quickly and covertly spread through an organization without being detected. Although the ransom ware has been detected in several countries, it appears to be concentrated in organizations in Russia and Ukraine, particularly media outlets.

U.S. Takes Down International #ID #Theft Ring the U.S. Justice Department indicted 36 people in connection with an international identity theft ring known as #Infraud. #cyberfraud

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International Cyber Crime Ring Smashed After More Than $530 Million Stolen

CNN | By Ben Westcott

US authorities have indicted 36 people for stealing more than $530 million from victims across the world in one of the “largest cyber fraud enterprises ever prosecuted.” In a statement, US investigators claimed the accused were taking part in a massive operation known as the Infraud Organization, which stole and then sold other people’s personal information, including credit card and banking information. “Today’s indictment and arrests mark one of the largest cyberfraud enterprise prosecutions ever undertaken by the US Department of Justice,” Acting Assistant US Attorney General John Cronan said in a statement. Cronan said it was believed the group had intended to cause losses totaling more than $2.2 billion during their seven years of operation. Authorities have already arrested 13 people from a range of countries including the United States, Australia, the United Kingdom, France and Italy. The Infraud Organization has been in operation since October 2010, according to the statement from the US Justice Department, when it was launched by a 34-year-old Ukrainian man Svyatoslav Bondarenko. He had wanted to grow the organization into the internet’s largest “carding” group — that is, a criminal group who buy retail purchases with counterfeit or stolen credit card information. Their motto was, “In Fraud We Trust.” According to the Justice Department statement, there were 10,901 registered members of the Infraud Organization as of March 2017, who were divided into specific roles. They ranged from the “administrators” who oversaw the organization’s strategic planning and approved membership, all the way down to the “members” who used the Infraud forum to facilitate their criminal activities. Law enforcement agencies from across the world collaborated on the investigation into Infraud, including Italy, Australia, the United Kingdom, France and Luxembourg, among many others.

IRS warns tax preparers about a new refund scam. Only a few days into the tax-filing season, the #IRS is sounding an alarm about a new tax scam. Specifically, it’s warning #tax preparers to be on guard about the scam, which is aimed at stealing #taxpayers’ refunds by using data compromised in tax preparers’ offices. Kathy Kristof | CBS News | MSN

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The agency said it has already received a number of fake tax returns that had accurate taxpayer names, addresses, Social Security numbers and even bank account information for the victims.

In an unusual twist, some bogus refunds were actually directed to the real taxpayers’ bank accounts, the agency said. A criminal, posing as a debt collector, then contacted the taxpayers saying the refunds had been sent in error and the victims should forward the money to the crook.

Because these fake returns contained all of the taxpayer’s correct information, down to the right number of dependents, the IRS believes the scam started in tax-preparation offices. The agency assumes that the data was compromised because some preparers were taken in by phishing scams that then loaded malicious software onto their computer systems, making all the taxpayer information that was kept by these preparers vulnerable to theft.
Government website to help victims of identify theft. The IRS said it’s still in preliminary stages of investigating the con and can’t quantify how many people have been affected. But because this type of scam has a way of burgeoning overnight, the agency wanted to immediately warn preparers to secure their computer systems.

“Given the history that we have seen on scams like this, when these start, they tend to proliferate quickly,” said IRS spokesman Terry Lemons. “When a scam turns out to be successful, they tend to expand. We wanted to alert tax professionals to be on the lookout.”

Unfortunately for consumers — the ultimate victims of this con — those who find themselves hit by tax fraud have a far more difficult course than consumers whose credit card accounts have been stolen. In the latter case, consumers have a number of steps they can take to deter criminals from using that stolen information to open up new accounts.

In the former case, the first inkling that a taxpayer would get that they were victimized is when their electronically filed return gets rejected as a duplicate. At that point, in addition to reporting the fraud to the credit bureaus and the Federal Trade Commission, tax fraud victims need to fill out a special IRS form, 14039. The taxpayer’s 1040 must then be filed on paper, with the fraud affidavit attached to the front.
How the tax bill will affect the returns of three American families
Be prepared that this will dramatically slow your refund. Lemons said the typical tax identity fraud takes roughly four months to investigate and resolve.

Since tax ID theft peaked in 2013, the IRS has taken a host of steps, including forming a security partnership with preparers and software companies, to stamp out tax return fraud. The agency has also launched a pilot program that has added 16-digit identifiers to some employer’s W-2 information. The agency hopes this will help it spot and stop identity thieves before they take off with taxpayer refunds.

These efforts have helped cut ID theft reports nearly in half over the past year.

“We have stepped up our defenses, and the private sector tax community has worked to strengthen their security too,” Lemons said.

Still, this newly discovered fraud is ominous and suggests that individual taxpayers should also be on guard.

Make sure that you keep updated security software on your home computer and ask any tax preparer you hire how your data is protected, Lemons suggested. If any of your W-2 forms contain the new 16-digit identifiers, also make sure to include that number on your tax return. That will help the IRS know the return truly came from you, not an identity crook.